With hundreds of people across the Midwest getting sick with a severe stomach virus, Michigan health officials are now on alert. The CDC says the outbreak caused by the cyclospora parasite is now to blame for more than 275 illnesses in 11 states. Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas have the most cases.The CDC began tracking the outbreak in mid-June. Fresh produce may be to blame. The CDC says the parasite is most commonly found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in tropical regions. It's spread by people eating food or drinking water contaminated with the parasite. Cyclospora causes watery diarrhea which can last a long time.
"So the average length of time someone is going to be sick with cyclospora is going to be 57 days of diarrhea. That's a long time to be sick," said Heather Meador Linn County, IA Public Health Nurse.
At least 18 people nationwide so far have been hospitalized. One infectious disease specialist says raspberries are an item on which the parasite is commonly found, because they are difficult to wash. The CDC says this is not a fatal disease, it can be treated with antibiotics, fluids, and rest.. Experts say people should continue to eat fruit and vegetables, just wash them thoroughly. Also wash your hands and surfaces with hot soapy water before and after handling foods. Michigan typically has less than a handful of these cases a year, but because the outbreak has moved closer to home--to Ohio. Michigan health officials are closely monitoring reports from the CDC.